Ebook revolution well under way

Oxford English DictionaryExactly a year ago, I wrote about how ebooks are the future. Today I read that the Oxford English Dictionary, the mighty volumes that record our very language itself, will only be available online. You can read a bit about that here.

Now, I’m a speculative fiction writer. I love science fiction. I’ve said this before – my iPhone does way more than Captain Kirk’s communicator could ever do. The iPad is suspiciously like Star Trek: The Next Generation‘s PADD (Personal Access Display Device). Incidentally, check out the gibberish on the PADD screen in the picture below. Are we really surprised that things like a multi-volume behemoth are crumbling under the weight of online use? We can’t have the future and the past together. That’d be some weird time twister where everyone’s confused.

Star Trek PADDAs a writer, I often use a dictionary to check words. You know which one I use most? www.dictionary.com. I have a beautiful printed dictionary, in fact I have a few, but I rarely use them. If I’m not at my computer, I use the dictionary.com app on my iPhone. It’s easy and it’s good for the planet. You can hear the trees breathing a sigh of relief.

But you may also remember me gushing about how much I love Angela Slatter’s new book. Not just because it’s awesome storytelling, but because the physical book is just a beautiful thing to hold and behold. It was limited to 300 copies. Here’s a relevant quote from my previous post a year ago, that I linked at the start of this one:

But here’s my prediction – 99% of the books of the future will be either electronic or Print-On-Demand. Within twenty years or so traditional off-set print runs will be used exclusively for high-end collectors edition books.

I know – quoting myself. What a wanker. But you get my point. We have to accept that these things are happening and we have to accept that it’s not a bad development. I heard a statistic on the radio today that by the end of next year, one in ten books bought will be ebooks. Ten per cent of market share. That’s a lot for a new technology. It’s already around the three to five per cent mark. But literacy rates are expected to go up as well, as more people will have access to more reading options more often.

That 20 year estimate in my quote above could be grossly inaccurate. It might all happen far quicker than that. It’s the future people. Embrace it. Real books aren’t going anywhere, because too many of us love them. But the face of reading is changing just like the nature of book buying and book publishing is changing. Don’t be scared – it’s all really quite exciting.

EDIT – There’s been a fair amount of chatter about this post on Twitter and other places and one of the things that keeps getting mentioned again and again is, more or less, “I just hate reading from a screen, simple as that.”

Well, it’s worth noting that ebook readers are evolving rapidly too. Already the Kindle and other e-ink devices are replicating the printed page very well. Screens will soon be so advanced that they’re just like a printed page. And isn’t that deliciously ironic. Accept it – we already live in a digital future. The Schwarzschild radius has long since passed.

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Flesh and Bone is here

You know how the other day I was going on about how much I love to receive books? I was talking about what a joy it is to get books in the mail, especially books that are works of art in themselves, as well as containing awesome stories? Well, there’s one thing better. Getting a book in the post that contains awesome stories, one of which is written by me. I still get such a thrill seeing a book with my name in the Table Of Contents. This one arrived today:

Flesh & Bone: Rise Of The Necromancers is an anthology from Pill Hill Press: Twenty-one dark short stories about the undead, and the persons who raise them…

My story, The King’s Accord, is one of them. Get your copy here.

*snoopy dance*

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Friday Flash – Jeff Newman’s Headaches

FrdayFlashBadgeThis is a little bit cheeky, but as I don’t have a new flash fiction piece for today, I thought I’d redirect people to the piece that was published at 52 Stitches on Monday. It’s still the same week and it’s still flash fiction, so it counts, right? The story is called Jeff Newman’s Headaches and you can find it here. I hope you like it.

If you already read the story after I posted an announcement about it on Monday, I apologise for wasting your time. For you, just so you don’t feel cheated, here’s an Arabic robot made of microwave ovens:

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It’s a drive-by!

You may remember Angela Slatter from such posts as yesterday’s glowing review. Well, some time ago she sent me five questions as part of her drive-by series of interviews. She’s been doing this for a while now, asking people five questions, the last of which is always about donuts. Some awesome writerly folk have been included, and I’m rather humbled to have been cast among them. In one of those synchronicity moments, my little drive-by has been posted today.

It’s a good bit of fun, so pop over to Angela’s site and have a read. She says such nice things about me, even after I mentioned boobs. Or maybe because of it? While you’re there, scroll back through the posts and read some of the others.

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Sourdough & Other Stories by Angela Slatter – review

SourdoughYou may remember a few days ago I was bleating on about the awesome book I’d received in the post, Sourdough & Other Stories. As you can see from the picture here, it truly is a work of art in and of itself. Well, now I’ve read it and Angela Slatter’s stories inside are works of art too.

I’m a sucker for a good fairy story. And I mean a proper fairy story, where nasty things happen, even to the good people. It makes my teeth flex to see these sanitised Disney fairy tales, where it’s all rainbows and unicorns and bollocks like that, with a final message that all you have to do is believe in yourself. Fuck off. That’s not a fairy tale. A real fairy story is where the witch does eat the children, not when the children outsmart the mean old witch with their goodness and wholesomeness.

So yeah, I like a proper fairy tale and I knew that Slatter’s book was a collection of such things. I also knew that it was a collection of interconnected stories, with the whole book becoming something of a novel-of-short-stories rather than a whole bunch of standalone yarns. And I knew that most of the stories were dealing primarily with women protagonists. I didn’t know anything more about it than that. I’ve read some of Slatter’s work before and knew what an awesome writer she was, so I had high hopes. I bought this book the moment it became available and it leapt straight to the top of my reading pile.

I consumed this thing whole and it consumed me. Slatter’s writing is exquisite, she really is a master storyteller. Her turns of phrase are often beautiful and haunting. It’s not that her prose is full of literary swirl or flowery excess. She just uses language like a virtuoso pianist uses a keyboard. She delights in the short form of the delivery and these tales are tight, incredibly crafted things. She builds a world and a set of characters and makes us care about both of them in the space of a few paragraphs. She creates a story that hooks us and takes along. And because I knew there was interconnectedness in this book, getting to the end of one story just made me desperate to read the next. I wanted to see whose baby would be the powerful witch later on, or whose actions would cause ripples in future generations. And I was distraught when the book ended and there were no more stories to read.

Terrible things happen in Slatter’s stories, to good guys and bad guys. Good guys do horrible things to bad people and vice versa. Often it’s not entirely clear who the good and bad people are. There’s realism in the desperate struggles of the characters. Often the women around whom all these tales revolve are subjugated and oppressed, yet they shine in the end as the ones with real power, real lasting effect on their world. There are beautiful moments of redemption and bittersweet justice and occasional moments of genuine joy for the characters.

There is constant genuine joy for the reader. This book is a fantastic achievement on every level. Tartarus Press are to be congratulated for creating a beautiful object and Angela Slatter is to be congratulated for crafting a reading experience that is truly sublime. If this doesn’t get up for the Best Collected Work at the Aurealis Awards or something similar I’ll be sorely disappointed. Get it. Now.

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